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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 80 – John 18:38
The man of Truth
The other concept running together with the royal kingship of Jesus through these verses is that of truth. This is highlighted by contrasting it with the untruths of poor old Peter. The first instance of this is the episode where an official slaps the defenceless Jesus across the face because he has challenged the high priest. We read that he said, “Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said. When he said this one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Note the immediate emphasis on truth.

Then in discussion with Pilate Jesus claims to be the leader of truth, which provokes Pilate to his famous question ‘what is truth?’ in John 18:38. Of course, he does not get a direct and simple answer from Jesus. His answer comes from the events recorded in the next few verses where he is forced by the manipulations of the Jews to condemn Jesus and release Barabbas, the murderer, bandit and revolutionary who should have been executed. Finally he is forced to give judgement from the judge’s seat a place that is sharply defined by the giving of 3 names to the one place in 19:13 where we read “When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha).”

The most important place for truth to prevail is in the court of law. It can be difficult to make sure that the truth is reached and acted upon. Those of us who live in countries where this is done as far as possible scarcely comprehend the problems of the many other countries where bribery and corruption, and politically motivated results are common place.

But through all this we have to recognize that what John means by ‘truth’ and the associated word ‘true’ is rather more than we usually do when we use them. Our usual use of the words is to mean that a verbal statement is an accurate representation of something that happened or an idea someone had.

John goes much deeper. He says:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)
Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. (John 7:17)

All of which make his reply to Pilate, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37) meaningful.

For John truth is about connection with God and that connection can only be made through Jesus. One writer says, “In a world that often refers to |God but rarely mentions Jesus, the fact that it is specifically in Jesus, rather than more generally in God, that Truth is found is profoundly significant and intensely relevant. Not only this, but in this world, the Truth, like Jesus, will always be called to suffer. The cross therefore ought to serve as a repeated reminder that, in this world, the only truth is a crucified truth. In this world Jesus could not be the truth without ending up being called to die for the truth, and as the truth. It will be the same for his followers.”

There is much to think about there.

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